“For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.” (John 17:8)
Today’s text, from the Gospel of John and Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, contains several significant verbs, or action words, involving not only God the Father, but also God the Son , God the Holy Spirit and those who are followers of Jesus Christ. The words to which I refer are as follows: given, gave, received, come, know, came, believed, and sent. Let’s take a look at each of them.
- This word is from the Greek δέδωκα; dedoka. It is an active verb which used here is in the perfect tense. The perfect tense in the Greek language means a past tense completed action which has continuing results in the present and future. Jesus stated that He had “given” or granted to the disciples the words or revelation from the Father. That action not only had an impact in the past but continues to have impact in the present and future lives of current and future disciples of Jesus.
- This word is the same basic Greek word (ἔδωκάς; edokas) as the word given but in the aorist active tense. The aorist tense means an act that occurs at a particular point in time in the past and which involves the entire being of those involved. Jesus indicated that the words He had given to the disciples were the words God the Father “gave” Him. Jesus does not indicate exactly when the Father gave the words to the Son to give to the disciples: only that the Father did so.
- The word received (ἔλαβον; elabon) is also an aorist active verb. It means to accept and to take hold of. Jesus said the disciples received the words which Jesus had given them and in which God the Father gave to Jesus. To receive not only means to receive and accept an object but also the benefits in which the initiative of such benefits rests with the giver.
- Have come to know. This four word phrase in the English is only one word in the Greek (ἔγνωσαν; egnosan). It too is an aorist active verb. It means to understand, perceive and comprehend. The disciples had come to understand a truth or a reality. What exactly was this truth the disciples had come to know?
- Once again the aorist tense is used with the word “came” (ἐξῆλθον; exelthon). The word means to depart out of or from someplace or from someone. In this verse’s context, Jesus stated He came from God the Father. He came from heaven to earth.
- The sixth word is taken from the Greek word ἐπίστευσαν; episteusan. It is translated “they have believed.” It also is an active aorist tense verb which means to trust in, commit to, depend upon and worship a particular object. The object of the disciples faith is God the Father and His work through God the Son.
- The seventh and final word is an aorist active verb as well. It is from the Greek word ἀπέστειλας; apesteilas. We derive our English word “apostle” meaning sent one. It means to send someone out with a message. Jesus said God the Father sent God the Son with a message. The message was the gospel, or good news, of salvation from the penalty, power and eventual presence of sin by faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
John Calvin writes, “It is because they, the disciples, have received the doctrine which He taught them. But that no one may think that His doctrine is human or is earthly in its origin, He declares that God is the author of it, when His says, ‘The words which thou gavest me I have given to them.’ The meaning therefore is that Christ was a faithful witness of God to the disciples so that their faith was found exclusively on the truth of God since the father Himself spoke in the Son. The receiving, of which He speaks, arose from His having efficaciously manifested to them the name of His Father by the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus was affirming the true, saving faith of the disciples. May this also be said of us by the Savior that He has given us the words the Father gave Him, and that we have received them and have come to know in truth that Jesus came from the Father and that we have believed that the Father sent God the Son.
May truth and grace reside here.
Soli deo Gloria!